Congress probes Jackson water crisis as city and state spar

Oct 17, 2022, 12:45 AM | Updated: 3:08 pm
Clouds are reflected off the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility's sedimentation...

Clouds are reflected off the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility's sedimentation basins in Ridgeland, Miss., Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. Jackson's water system partially failed following flooding and heavy rainfall that exacerbated longstanding problems in one of two water-treatment plants. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Congress is investigating the crisis that left 150,000 people in Mississippi’s capital city without running water for several days in late summer, according to a letter sent to Gov. Tate Reeves by two Democratic officials.

Reps. Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, and Carolyn Maloney, of New York, sent the letter Monday requesting information on how Mississippi plans to spend $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act and from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and $429 million “specifically allotted to enhance the state’s water infrastructure.”

The letter indicates “the start of a joint investigation” by the House Homeland Security and the Oversight and Reform committees into a crisis that deprived Jackson’s 150,000 residents of running water for several days in late August and early September, Adam Comis, a staffer for the committee, told The Associated Press.

Thompson’s district includes most of Jackson, and he chairs the Homeland Security Committee. Maloney chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee.

Jackson has had water problems for years, and the latest troubles began in late August after heavy rainfall exacerbated problems in the city’s main treatment plant, leaving many customers without running water. Jackson had already been under a boil-water notice since late July because the state health department found cloudy water that could make people ill.

Running water was restored within days, and a boil-water notice was lifted in mid-September, but the letter to Reeves says “water plant infrastructure in the city remains precarious, and risks to Jackson’s residents persist.”

The pair of congressional Democrats requested a breakdown of where the state sent funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including “the racial demographics and population sizes of each” community that received aid. They also requested information on whether Jackson has faced “burdensome hurdles” to receive additional federal funds. The letter asked Reeves to provide the requested information by Oct. 31.

Mississippi has not yet announced how it will spend American Rescue Plan Act money for water projects. Cities and counties had a Sept. 30 deadline to apply for funding.

According to the letter, which was first reported on by NBC News, Oversight Committee staff learned in a briefing with Jackson officials that the state attempted to limit funding to Jackson for its water system. The state allegedly planned to “bar communities of more than 4,000 people from competing for additional funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” the letter says.

In their letter, Thompson and Maloney also referenced reporting by the AP that Reeves had a hand in delaying funds for water system repairs in Jackson and claimed to have blocked funds. Reeves’ office did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment on the letter.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice in January that Jackson’s water system violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In September, federal attorneys threatened legal action against the city if it did not agree to negotiations related to its water system. Lumumba said the city was working with the federal government on a plan to fix the water system.

Failure by city and state officials to provide Jackson residents with a reliable water system reflects decades of government dysfunction, population change and decaying infrastructure. It has also fueled a political battle between GOP state lawmakers and Democratic city officials.

That acrimony continued after the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency announced Friday that it is seeking a private contractor to run the Jackson water system for one year. The agreement would be funded by the city of Jackson, according to the proposal released by MEMA.

In a news release Monday, Reeves said his office was told by city officials that Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is planning to “functionally end the city’s cooperation” by “refusing to participate in the process of selecting a water operator.”

“Although politics is clearly his priority, we are simply trying to ensure that Jackson water does not fail again,” Reeves said. “Ultimately, it may fall to the city council to rein in this radical gambit.”

The rancor ensued even though MEMA wrote that it requested a private contractor “in unified command with the City of Jackson.”

Reeves threatened to pull state assistance if the city didn’t change course. City officials were communicating they “no longer desire state assistance and insist on going it alone,” Reeves said.

In a statement, Lumumba retorted that the city had been “‘going it alone’ after years of asking for state support” and that Jackson “has made no mention of ending the City’s cooperation” with state and federal officials. The mayor said the city would not agree to the request for a private contractor until it had an opportunity to revise the language in the proposal.

“The City, with support from those who truly are invested in the repair and maintenance of the water treatment facilities, will have the final say,” Lumumba said. “We look forward to productive conversations that lead to an actual agreement instead of a headline.”

___

Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Participants get ready for the Miss Trans Northeast 22, beauty pageant in Guwahati, India, Wednesda...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Pageant celebrates transgender life in India

GUWAHATI, India (AP) — Anilya Boro may not have won the crown at India’s Miss Trans NE pageant this year, but having her parents there in support was a validation in its own right. “I must prove to my parents that I can do something as a girl,” said the 22-year-old. “I didn’t win a […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 4, the “Million Dollar Quartet”

Today in History Today is Sunday, Dec. 4, the 338th day of 2022. There are 27 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights in History: On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered for the first and only time for a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Blaine 80, Bear Creek School 38 Jackson 66, Mark Morris 62 Union 70, Lewis and Clark 51 POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS= Olympic vs. Crosspoint Academy, ppd. Sedro-Woolley vs. Meadowdale, ppd. to Dec 3rd. ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Camas 73, Archbishop Murphy 35 Friday Harbor 31, Bellingham 29 Mead 73, West Linn, Ore. 35 POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS= Crosspoint Academy vs. Olympic, ppd. ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Firth 65, Fruitland 64, OT Highland 58, Salmon River 52 Kimberly 55, Homedale 39 Rigby 62, Mountain View 57 St. Maries 69, Kendrick 48 Timpview, Utah 48, Madison 33 CHARGER TOURNAMENT= Hillcrest 50, Pleasant Grove, Utah 44 ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. […]
22 hours ago
Georgia celebrates a win against LSU in the after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA col...
Associated Press

SEC halftime contest booed, both students awarded $100,000

ATLANTA (AP) — Just what the Dr ordered. Two college students each wound up winning $100,000 in tuition Saturday, shortly after boos filled Mercedes-Benz Stadium because of a confusing ending in a halftime contest during the SEC championship game. Fans at the LSU-Georgia game jeered when one of the competitors appeared to capture the Dr […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Congress probes Jackson water crisis as city and state spar